You may still have romantic vision of a progressive Barack Obama. You know, he’s a Chicago community organizer who ran for president because he wanted the power to help the poor and downtrodden. Or, you are not sure about that community organizer thing, but you’re still wowed by the charismatic, tall, handsome, intelligent Harvard Law Review editor with the exotic Kenyan father and the million-dollar smile—in other words, you just can’t resist his rock star personality. Perhaps, sadly, you still have a tattered Shepard Fairey poster taped to your wall. You still believe in the face of mountains of evidence to the contrary, that he embodies hope and change. Or, as all your fantasies are crumbling, you imagine he is such an extraordinary and exceptional human being, that he arose, from nowhere, from the force of his brilliance and goodness, to be our president, like a Venus on the half shell.
The real story of how Barack Obama became president
Hyatt hotel heiress Penny Pritzker and Wall Street billionaire Robert Rubin, and their wealthy friends, made him president. After the debacle of the Bush presidency, it was clear a Democrat had a better chance of winning. They needed a youthful candidate who had the charisma to get elected and who would be willing to enact policies beneficial to them—policies that would ensure the growth of their obscene fortunes. He needed to be sympathetic to their self-serving “free market” philosophy and to financial deregulation—in other words, he had to be someone who would let them continue to run amuck. They picked Obama over Clinton, and then Obama over McCain.
At the very least, they wanted to make sure they were not prosecuted for the financial crimes they committed, and they needed their banks protected from prosecution in the foreclosure scandals. Any reforms of the financial industry were to be lightweight. And when the bill passed, they would unleash their lobbyists to strip Dodd-Frank like hyenas on a dead carcass. Of course, they wanted the FED spigot to continue to flow, giving them trillions in practically free money with which to gamble. Any healthcare “reform” would have to protect and preserve Big Pharma and the health insurance industry. If not privatized (so-called Democrat Bob Rubin floated that idea before 2008) social safety nets were to be weakened in preparation for future privatization. While the vast majority of voters, Democrats and Republicans, strongly support Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, the billionaires who finance campaigns do not.
Obama has dutifully delivered on much of their agenda, and he’s trying his best on Social Security by insisting that chained CPI be on the table. For his efforts, after his presidency, he will be rewarded with hundreds of millions in speaking fees, making $250,000 a pop at Citibank and JP Morgan Chase. They will fund his foundation, and build him a big, honking presidential library somewhere on the south side of Chicago.
Obama agreed to do the bidding of billionaires, not because, as some believe, he wanted to position himself as a progressive Trojan Horse, but because he identifies with them—the “savvy businessmen of Wall Street.” He proudly identifies himself a a “free-market guy,” at his 2006 inaugural speech at Robert Rubin’s neoliberal think tank, the Hamilton Project. At that meeting, it was obvious he no longer identified with his role as community organizer—if he ever did. Obama referred to those displaced by globalization and outsourcing of jobs as the “losers” in the new economy—a very telling choice of words. It was clear: he wanted to be a part of the billionaire’s club where the real movers and shakers of the world—”the winners”—operate. The young junior senator from Illinois was already tapped to be president by Rubin and others.
Being a Wall Street sympathizer, Obama had to lie about his policies to get elected, especially about his plans to cut Social Security and his never-really-real public option. When elected, in return for Robert Rubin’s support, he hired Rubin acolytes and Wall Street surrogates Timothy Geithner and Lawrence Summers. He then proceeded to hire every Wall Street person he could find to fill his cabinet. So, now, in his second term, when his true progressive self was supposed to be unleashed, at a time when most Americans are struggling and losing economic ground, he appoints his union hating, subprime-mortgage bank fraudster, billionaire, campaign bundler, Penny Pritzker to be Commerce Secretary.
I would say, simply, that Obama is not your friend—just like Penny Pritzker is not your friend. In their world, corporate and banking interests will always trump yours. Pritzker, as Secretary of Commerce, will not be working for you; she will be working for her friends.
How did Obama get on billionaire Penny Pritzker’s radar?
Ever on the lookout for a winning politician to buy, Penny Pritzker plucked Obama out of the Illinois state legislature and introduced him to her influential “Ladies Who Lunch” group. Then, she, her family, Barack, Michelle and the kids spent many weekends at the Pritzger mansion getting to know one another. They bonded. She liked his ideas and had plans for him—senator then president. She introduced him to her buddy, Robert Rubin. The rest, as they say, is history.
In 2008, Obama promised Pritzker the Commerce Secretary position if he were elected. He appointed her, then Superior Bank, the Chicago bank she owned and ran, which was heavily involved in subprime lending, imploded. Thanks to Pritzker, a lot people in Chicago lost their homes. Then, unhappy workers from the lucrative nursing homes her family owns through a string of complex offshore trusts, marched in protest in Washington, D.C. Truthdig writes about the Pritzker bank failure:
At the time of its collapse, Superior was the costliest bank failure ever and “the first of the deregulated go-go-banks to go bust.” Taxpayers lost nearly half a billion dollars. Depositors lost millions and many poor residents of state Sen. Obama’s South Side of Chicago lost their homes.
Because it all looked so unseemly, Pritzker removed her name from consideration. So, now four years later, Obama is trying. once again, to give his billionaire backer and best buddy, Penny Pritzker, the Commerce Secretary position. Her nomination will most likely be approved.
But, in the end, this is not a story about Barack Obama. It’s about billionaires owning our government, choosing who will run for office, and then buying legislation that enriches them at our expense. It’s about billionaire-backed candidates who get elected by manipulating voters with slick, faux-progressive campaigns hatched on Madison Avenue. The question is, how long will the American people tolerate this charade that passes for democracy?